Of course it is worse then that. These government funded pork projects tend to drive people in the private sector out of business because the government tyrants provide the same services that the private sector does, at low rates the private sector can compete with. [Because the private sector can't steal money like the government does]
Glut of East Valley arts venues has cities scrambling
by Art Thomason - Jul. 2, 2010 01:02 AM
The Arizona Republic
Southeast Valley government and tourism leaders boast that it has some of the state's top performing-arts venues.
Come see a diverse range of entertainment's best, they say, while soaking in the Mesa Arts Center's eye-popping architecture, the newly renovated Chandler Center for the Arts or the lakeside intimacy of Tempe's Center for the Arts.
Yet attendance is declining at some venues, a trend that executives, employees and arts supporters are scrambling to reverse.
And although prospective customers are managing their entertainment spending with caution, arts organizations are not blaming the tight economy for all lackluster box-office performance.
Amid slashed budgets, low revenue projections and reduced ticket prices, performing-arts venues are facing more competition from newer venues - most of them publicly funded - in what some arts executives call an overbuilt industry.
"There is no doubt that similar to the building of all the homes in the Valley we probably have too many performing arts centers and venues," said Will Prather, owner of Prather Entertainment Group, which operates dinner theaters in three states, including the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre in Mesa.
"Almost each one of the given communities has its own performing arts center, and not only are they getting their whole series of programs they have a bunch of users for their facilities such as community-theater groups and high schools," he said. "At the peak of our Mesa theater operations several years ago, I could point to 10,000 subscribers and now we're looking at almost half of that."
Prather opened the 500-seat northeast Mesa theater complex for its inaugural show a decade ago when the closest rivals for his theater's Broadway productions were the 1,500-seat Chandler Center for the Arts and ASU Gammage with more than 3,000 seats.
Within three years, however, the performance-hall floodgates opened.
The Hale Centre Theatre, a small, privately owned venue in Gilbert that presents musicals and concerts, and the Queen Creek Performing Arts Center, built by the town's school district, held grand openings in 2003. Two years later, the $95 million Mesa Arts Center held its debut performance; the Higley Center for the Performing Arts, also owned by the community's school district, followed a year later; and the Tempe Center for the Arts debuted in 2007.
The facilities added more than 5,000 seats and more entertainment alternatives to the mix of Southeast Valley venues, all of them within a 40-minute drive of each other.
"Let's not build anymore for awhile and let's grow into the shoes we bought," said Robert Booker, executive director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts.
In Chandler, customers filled just 62 percent of the seats during the 2008-09 season, a 12 percent decline from the previous season, said Michelle Mac Lennan, , assistant manager.
Just to break even, she said, the center, like many performing arts venues, needs 65 percent of the house to be full.
Shows for the 2009-10 season were held on the lawn or at the Higley performing-arts venue while the Chandler center was being renovated. The result dropped ticket sales, with crowds occupying only 55 percent of the seats.
In Mesa, ticket sales generated attendance that filled a little more than half the seats in the center's four theaters during the past two seasons, said Kari Kent, deputy city manager and interim arts-culture director.
"Our ticket sales have been consistent with the national trend," she said. "However, we are optimistic that through great programming and marketing, we will start to see ticket sales increase in the near future."
Randy Vogel, Mesa's assistant director of theaters and operations, said the 2010-11 season "is an opportunity to find and promote new artists for the next decade."
"Our goal was to identify some of the best new talent and develop a strong overall season that reflects the desire for our community to move forward," he said. "We've also brought in some of the most legendary artists in the business to create an entertaining and well-rounded season."
Although ticket sales have increased for the Tempe Center's performances, a city staff report to the City Council earlier this year estimated that the annual deficit for the Performing Arts Fund at $3 million.
Larry Whitesell, manager of the Higley performing-arts center, is elated over the 69 percent increase in ticket sales for the upcoming season, but it will take more than that to fill the venue's 1,235-seat concert hall, where attendance averaged about 40 percent of capacity last season.
The figures come as no surprise to Matt Lehrman, director of Phoenix-based Showup.com, a non-profit that promotes local arts associations and offers discounted last-minute performing-arts tickets. The number of people browsing the agency's Web site for entertainment options has dropped significantly, he said.
"Several years ago our average viewer came back once a week looking for things to do," he said. "In the last year and a half, we have watched that average drop to 2 1/2 to 3 times a month."
Joe McGrath, a 20-year career entertainer on Broadway who now orchestrates activities and entertainment at ViewPoint Golf Resort in east Mesa, said the dismal economy appears to have exacerbated the Southeast Valley's existing performing arts problems.
"Individuals are frightened about their financial survival as taxation, living expenses and general cost-of-living continue to rise," he said. "The result . . . is that it will be very difficult, if not impossible, for any arts venues to survive in the current bad times unless they were viable or profit making during the good years.
"If those arts venues were in deficit and in need of subsidy during the good times, then they are by nature overbuilt and will find it near impossible to survive."
Tempe Center for the Arts
Tempe Cesspool for the Arts